Enhanced brain activity observed in children who play video games: ScienceAlert

Enhanced brain activity observed in children who play video games: ScienceAlert

Parents often worry about the harmful effects of video games on their children, from mental health and social problems to missing out on exercise.

But a large new American study published in JAMA Network is open Monday indicates that there may also be cognitive benefits associated with the popular hobby.

Lead author Bader al-Shaarani, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont, told AFP he was naturally drawn to the topic as a passionate player with expertise in neuroimaging.

Previous research has focused on adverse effects, and has linked gaming to depression and increased aggression.

Sharani said these studies were limited by the relatively small number of participants, particularly those involving brain imaging.

For the new research, Charani and colleagues analyzed large, continuous data Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) StudyFunded by the National Institutes of Health.

They studied survey answers, cognitive test results, and brain images of nearly 2,000 children ages 9 to 10, who were separated into two groups: those who had never played games, and those who played for three or more hours a day. .

This threshold was chosen because it exceeds the American Academy of Pediatrics’ screen time guidelines for an hour or two of video games for older children.

Impulses and memory

Each group was evaluated in two tasks.

The first is to see the arrows point to the left or right, with the kids being asked to press left or right as fast as they can.

They were also asked not to press anything if they saw a “stop” signal, to measure how well they could control their impulses.

In the second task, they were shown people’s faces, and then asked whether the afterimage shown later matched, in a test of their working memory.

After using statistical methods to control for variables that might skew the results, such as parental income, IQ, and mental health symptoms, the team found that video game players performed better on both tasks.

As they performed the tasks, the children’s brains were scanned using a function MRI (fMRI). The video players’ brains showed more activity in areas associated with attention and memory.

In their paper, the authors conclude, “The results raise the intriguing possibility that video games may provide a cognitive training experience with measurable neurocognitive effects.”

At the moment, it’s not possible to tell if better cognitive performance is driving more games, or if it’s its outcome, Shaarani said.

The team hopes to get a clearer answer as the study continues and they look again at the same children at the older ages.

This will also help rule out other potential factors at play such as the children’s home environment, exercise and sleep quality.

Future studies could also benefit from knowing what kinds of games kids were playing – although 10-year-olds tend to prefer action games like Fortnite or Assassin’s Creed.

“Of course, excessive use of screen time is detrimental to mental health and physical activity in general,” Charani said.

But he said the results showed that video games may be a better use of screen time than watching videos on YouTube, which have no noticeable cognitive effects.

© France media agency

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